U.S. travel ban could be boon for Canada's tech sector

The new U.S. travel ban on citizens from seven countries could prove to be a boon for the Canadian tech sector, says immigration lawyer Stephen Green.

'Canada has been rated one of the number countries in the world to live,' says lawyer

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump sits at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The legal fight over President Donald Trump's refugee ban is likely to turn on whether the president has the authority to control access to America's borders and whether targeting people from a particular region in the world violates the Constitution. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
  A Toronto immigration lawyer says the time is ripe for Canada's technology sector to take advantage of the uncertainty created by a recent clampdown on immigration by President Donald Trump.

The sweeping executive order issued by the White House Sunday temporarily bans refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and has reverberated around the world, splitting up families and leaving business travelers stranded at airports.

Aside from the personal hardships the ban has caused, Silicon Valley firms worry the immigration clampdown may also have an effect on their bottom lines as many American tech firms have turned to foreign workers to plug a gap caused by a global digital skills, which some organizations estimate could be as high as 200,000 job vacancies by 2022.

"Right now there is a huge skill shortage when it comes to tech individuals," Stephen Green, a partner with the Toronto-based law firm Green-Spiegel who specializes in immigration law, told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Wednesday. 

"You've got some highly skilled people in the United States now that are quite candidly stuck or can't come back into into SIlicon Valley if they left," he said. 

Look for the gold lining

"People always talk about a silver lining to a cloud, well I think this is a gold lining for the [Canadian] tech sector," he said, noting digital firms in this country and, in particular Waterloo Region, would do well to try and recruit some of the foreign talent, especially amid fears the temporary ban might spread to other countries or, turn into a permanent one.
Stephen Green is an immigration lawyer in Toronto. (Stephen Green/supplied)

"There is tremendous uncertainty in the United States with respect to people from various parts of the world and everyone's thinking 'wow, will I be the next group?" Green said. 

Green said the mechanisms exist in order to transfer highly-sought after skilled tech workers to Canada quickly and easily with programs such as the Global Skills Strategy, which is currently under review by the federal Liberal government.

The program was created to speed up and help companies and foreign skilled workers relocate to Canada, quickly and easily, especially if skills are needed from overseas on a short-term basis. 

Green says the Global Skills Strategy would help large multi-national companies such as Google, which staged a walkout at its California offices on Monday in opposition to the Trump presidency's immigration ban, transfer its workers to its Canadian headquarters in Kitchener. 

"Really, the company should be letting everybody know 'we need your skills, come to Canada,'" he said. 

Money isn't everything

Green said while many Canadian technology companies have found it difficult to compete with in-house sushi chefs, sleeping pods and other on the job perks that have made Silicon Valley famous, Canada does offer one thing the United States doesn't seem to have right now. 

"Compensation isn't everything," he said. "If you're coming to Canada you're looking for stability. You know that we work on a multi-cultural basis up here in Canada. You know you are safe, you are joining a multi-cultural place. Canada has been rated one of the number countries in the world to live."

"I think that all the extra benefits that are in Waterloo Region and pretty much Canada will certainly overcome those types of issues."